Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 4 in Buena Vista

Missionary work improving in the district in spite of cricket distractions…

Subject:  “That sounded just like an elephant!”

BYU, you had me worried when you mixed up those poisons. But now that UCF is dead, all is forgiven.

I'm glad that they played better this time. It means that they are still on the road to being awesome when I get back.

This week was a little bit better. But not a whole lot. The good news is that I found a way to help my district. In district meeting I talked about each of their areas and where they need to improve. Then I had them make a list of people with whom they could do divisions. And then I set goals with them every day of the week for their lessons to find. They didn't always meet the goals, but it really boosted the numbers. They even did divisions once or twice, which basically doubles the numbers for that day. As you can imagine, it's a good thing. I'm really quite happy with it. They're doing much better. My own area, though, has seen a little bit less improvement. We did divisions twice, though, too. So that helped.

P1010110There's this cricket looking thing right next to the monitor, and it kind of has half of my interest. So sorry if I seem to have a lack of focus.

The problem continues to be getting people to church. This week we had zero investigators in church. That's the first time that that has happened since I got here. And for this country it's pretty bad. We are teaching a bunch of people, though, so we have the investigators, they just all keep bailing on us Sunday morning when we pass by to pick them up. This week it was everything from "I'm feeling a little sick" to "Today is Sunday? I thought it was Saturday...". Annoying. But we've started having another problem as well. Since we have a bunch of investigators that we're teaching, we haven't been finding anyone. That's not good, because if you don't find you eventually won't teach. We tried to fix it yesterday and spent over an hour looking for a reference in this three-block colonia, but we turned up with nothing. It was kind of lame.

Most of the investigators that we have are progressing pretty well, though. If you don't include coming to church. Cindy is probably the most positive, still. The last time that we went to visit her (after not being able to for three or four days) she had read the two chapters we had left her (Alma 36 and 3 Nephi 11), Alma 32, since we had been talking about it one time and she was curious, and had started from 1 Nephi and was half a chapter or so in. That's impressive. I know a lot of members who don't do that. She is still full of questions, too. I'm not going to lie, it's a little bit nerve-wracking to have an investigator like this. You'd think that it's super great, but it's kind of scary. It means that she already has a desire to at least find out more and look for a testimony (by the way, she told us that she had not prayed about the Book of Mormon yet because she's in the middle of some pretty frustrating stuff with some guy and just didn't feel like she could do it sincerely enough while being mad at him), and that we are here to help her with it. With normal investigators we kind of have to convince them to do it, which means that any success is attributed to us and any failure is attributed to their agency. But with investigators like her it's just the opposite. If she succeeds, it's because of what she has done and her desire to do so, and if she fails it's because we messed up somewhere. I don't know if that makes any sense, but it's kind of there in the back of my mind while we teach her sometimes.

Quick side note, though: the credit never really goes to us, of course. Which means that the failure never really goes to us, either. We just have to follow the spiri--oh my gosh, that cricket just jumped onto me. So I decided to take a picture of it and upload it here. It kind of freaked me out because I had no idea what hit me. But then it wasn't a big deal. Kind of funny, actually. Also, when I tried to flick it off of me it bounced off the wall and grabbed back onto my leg. See, it was funny.

Fransisco has been taught just about everything, but he won't come to church. Carlos and his wife are doing alright, and Rosa and her husband are as well. What really surprised me, though, was that last night we went back to an investigator named Griselda. Her husband, Melvin, was an investigator, but I think I already told you all what happened there. He basically fought with us and told us that he didn't want any more. He's still a super nice guy, by the way, so don't think he's not. But we went back to talk to the wife, and she had read the Book of Mormon! Not much, but still! That's awesome. We hadn't even left her anything to read. So she might progress, as well. And she told us that she was going to go to the Corn Festival, but it was raining super hard so she couldn't. Oh well. That's progress!

To finish up, I'd like you all to know that I finished my journal. Not my first journal, nor my second, my THIRD journal. That's every single day for over fifteen months. I bought five in the MTC, and I've finished the green, the red, and the blue. I'm now on the black, and by the time I finish my mission I'll be a good ways through the white one. Be impressed. That's huge for me. And I've definitely seen how great of a thing it is to have those journals. I was reading one or two days from my first one, and it was great to be able to remember those things that I probably wouldn't have remembered otherwise.

Thanks for the emails this week. Stacey mentioned this new I'm a Mormon thing that's coming out down there in Arizona, so I just wanted to let you know that it sounds like a great idea. In fact, I think I heard about that. And I think that I browsed the page and watched all of the profile videos. About fourteen months ago. I was in the MTC, as a matter of fact, when a guy came and announced it to all of us missionaries. He showed us a couple of the videos and told us how it would work. In the MTC I made a profile for it, but I couldn't upload pictures, which is required, so I couldn't finish. But every once in a while, in the office, we would go online and watch a couple of those. They're great.

However, I have two little thoughts. One is that we are supposed to stop referring to ourselves as Mormons, so I'm not sure how that works. The other is from a book that our branch president has (in English) called Here We Stand. It talks about how often times we, as church members, try to find common ground with other faiths to be more accepted. While it's good to be accepted, though, the author explained that as a salesman trying to sell you something by first convincing you that it's exactly the same as what you already have. Well if it's the same, why on earth would we buy it? He also talked about a man that he knew that was a catholic and decided to visit the church. All of the members fellowshipped him, but they were all just trying to convince him that they're basically the same. He left the church completely convinced of that, and said later that he had no reason to change if they're the same. I'm not saying that this new campaign is doing that at all, I just thought that was interesting. It was a good book, from what I read, by the way. I might have to read that later. So there you go. That's my spiritual thought this week. We don't have to find middle ground in preaching the gospel.

Also, I'm glad that Romney is looking good in the polls. I also have been a pretty big fan of him. The guy just makes sense. That's rare in politics.

Thanks again for all the support! I love you all!

Elder David Arrington

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 3 in Buena Vista

This missionary work thing appears to be harder than it looks!  A few challenges to talk about today….but no pictures.

Subject:  "I see you like to chew. Well why don't you chew... ON MY FIST!"

I am kind of a little bit short on time. We have a zone activity this week, so with 18 missionaries needing to write in a very short amount of time and very limited machines, I get the short end of the stick. But that's not that bad, because this week was kind of uneventful.

As far as investigators go, I'm a little bit befuddled. I think that has three d's. We have a pretty solid group of investigators that we're teaching, but none of them seem to have any desire to come to church. They are all really excited at first, but then they just don't do it. For example, we're teaching this guy named Francisco (who everyone calls Don Paco for some reason). He is reading the Book of Mormon, has been praying, and has told us several times that he feels like he wants to go to church and see what it's like, and that he thinks that that's where he needs to be. But then, Sunday morning, he says he just can't. Or he isn't home. And he's not the only one. People come up with the stupidest excuses. "Oh, I'd love to go to church today with you, but Sunday is my only day to wash the clothes, and I haven't done it during the week at all, and it just cannot wait another hour." It's ridiculous. But that's agency, I suppose.

Another that we've been teaching lately that has been kind of positive was a girl named Cindy. I don't really know how it's spelled in Spanish, but I speak English and that's how we spell it. She is a skater-girl, and every weekend goes out to skateboard with her friends, but doesn't really seem like it at first. She seems kind of like just a nice person. Anyway, she's been reading the Book of Mormon a bit as well, and is interested in the Bible and churches and all that. She just hasn't come to church because of different parties or camping or random things that she does on the weekend. But she seems pretty positive, to be honest. We were there last night, and we had a pretty good lesson about the Bible and the Book of Mormon and how and why they are important, which stemmed off of some questions that she had about Revelations. That is a confusing book.

Also last night we went to visit Alba, the lady that just got baptized. She invited a few people over and we taught them, which was cool. Teaching people in the houses of members is really powerful. Anyway, there were two families that we started to teach. One of them is slightly older, and the wife, Rosa, already got baptized a long, long time ago. But she doesn't go to church at all. Francisco, the husband, is learning about the church and is kind of indifferent about the whole thing. The other family is Carlos, the son of Francisco and Rosa, and his wife, Mariela. All of them were pretty open to reading the Book of Mormon and praying. The only part that made things a little bit more difficult was that the lesson started off with a question about why we do baptisms for the dead, and the statement, "If you answer using the Bible, it's okay, but if not I won't believe you." Now, that's a little bit hard to do using just the Bible, but we managed okay. I also found out that there aren't really any scriptures in the Book of Mormon at all about it. Funny, that. But we took that and tied it into the restoration and why it's important to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It was pretty good.

One big thing that I almost forgot to mention is the 15 of September, which is the El Salvador Independence Day or something. It's not super huge here, but it's at least a holiday. We spent it at a missionary activity. The Chalchuapa Stake, as it turns out, hosts an activity every year called the Corn Festival. It's a huge cultural event in the stake center with a bunch of dances and acts and such, and afterwards there's a ton of free corn-related foods. There's a lot of corn in this country, by the way, and I had never heard of any of these foods before coming here. They get kind of crazy with it. As a matter of fact, one of the foods is called "Crazy Corn-on-the-Cobb", in Spanish of course, and it's basically corn on the cobb smothered in mayonnaise, catsup, I think one other thing, and cheese. I was inclined not to try that.

Anyway, the activity was great, and there was a super great turnout. The stake center was literally packed, and I would send pictures except my battery is dead, so not until next week. Sorry! And since the activity was missionary-purposed, we missionaries had a bunch of assignments to make sure everything ran smoothly. It took all day, by the way. But my job, together with my comp, was to make sure that nobody entered or exited the cultural hall through a certain door, since it would create chaos. There was no way to lock the door, but the great part is that somebody had broken the knob, so there was literally no way to open it. So for a few hours we were guarding a door nobody could use. But it gave us a pretty good view of the dances and acts and such. There was this piano/violin duo that was really good.

My district is not doing very well. I feel like my comp and I are doing okay, and we have goals to get better this week, but the numbers for the other two areas are super low. It's kind of sad. The zone leaders are worried about it, as well as I. Every day we have to report one indicator called "Lessons to Find". One lesson to find is when you go talk to someone who is not an investigator about the church. That could be knocking doors, talking to the person on the bus next to you, asking someone for directions and mentioning the church, etc. It's super short, easy, and you just kind of do it. Each missionary is supposed to do ten each day at least, so twenty per companionship. In one of the areas in my district they had zero lessons to find for the WEEK. That hurts. Ow. So any ideas from all y'all would be good. But give me some creative ideas. If you want different results, you have to do something different.

Alright, I'm out of time and I still have to write to President. Your emails were fantastic this week. I got a pretty good bunch, and they were all pretty long and fun. I think the horrible, shameful loss of BYU must have sparked some desire in everyone to write to me. I'm not complaining; I didn't have to watch the game. Though it sounds horrible.

Julie, your email was great. I loved it. And it's great that you got to head out to Utah for a bit, even though you couldn't go everywhere that you wanted. Also, I definitely am sending you something that you might enjoy, so look forward to that.

Stacey, likewise your email was great. You both are really funny. And I fully expect you to take care of that music until I get back. You have a piano?

Mom and Dad, I'm glad the week of service was such a ridiculous success. The church works really well in the states, and it's cool to see everyone come together like that and exceed your expectations. And Michael was dressed up like a dog with a cape, so I think it was a big win-win.

I love you all! Thanks for the support!

Elder David Arrington

PS: Dang it. I knew you'd guilt me into paying the ticket. Oh well. That's probably why I mentioned it to you in the first place.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Week 2 in Buena Vista

Or wherever he is.  Turns out that there is a town in El Salvador called Buena Vista, but David’s not there.  He’s actually somewhere between his first city, Atiquizaya and the new mission office in Santa Ana.  I think Chalchuapa is actually the major town there, and David’s in kind of a suburb.  I’m the map, I’m the map!


Subject:  “Is this corn hand-shucked?”

I love that movie.

This week was great. And it sounds like it was great there at home, aside from two horrible football losses. But Steven at least is getting playing time, and BYU is getting experience for when I get back and can watch them dominate. So all is well in Zion, right?

P1000963Wrong. That was a trick question. Go study the scriptures, any of you who answered yes.
Most of the news from home was just about people visiting and going home, so I have no response to that. Sorry. But it sounds like fun, and I just realized how great it is that we can travel and visit each other like that. Most people here can't. However, most people here never move away from the house they were born in, so it's not that bad. However, everyone here, and I mean everyone, has family in the states. Usually in Los Angeles (which everyone here thinks is a state), New York, or Utah, of all places. And most of them are there illegally, and don't care at all. And then they just tell me how stupid our border control is. Their logic: "If we all fit there, let us go!" That wasn't supposed to be political, just a funny thing I noticed.

Being a district leader is the best. The control and information and such that I had in the office was awesome, but I needed a break, and being district leader is that break. I am in charge of two other areas, and most of my job is just collect and report numbers every night. I also am in charge of district meetings every week, and other general things that my missionaries need. P1000964But more than anything I've been able to focus on my area and just work. And it's great. And really tiring.

By the way, the office was tiring. Juinior comp was tiring. District leader is tiring. I think we all see the pattern here.

In the MTC I was taught many a thing, one of which was the importance of goals. Everyone here in the mission that I've ever met plans their days out and then sets their goals of how many lessons they want to teach and such. But some always fall through, so nobody ever meets their goals. They told me in the MTC that would happen, and that we should put the goals first and then make the appointments so that we can focus on the numbers a little bit more, but none of my comps before have ever wanted to do it. With Elder Funez, we started. And it's awesome. We met almost all of our goals for the week. I think we made 7 out of 11, which is about 7 more than I've ever met in my mission. And some of those that we didn't make are things we don't have a ton of control over, like investigators at church, or overall church attendence. But we're working on those still.

My actual areaMostly we just found a hoo-la of investigators this week. I think hoo-la was my way of saying a whole lot, but it just came out in my mind like that, so I typed it. Most of the news that we found were references from the members, especially the woman we just baptized, Alba. She gave us four that could get baptized in the next few weeks. The first, Fransisco, is a 50-ish year old guy who has read parts of the Book of Mormon and is pretty interested in the church. After our second visit with him we set a baptismal date for the 25, but since he didn't come to church this week we have to push it back a week. So not until October. By the way, the Area Presidency changed the attendence requirements. Now investigators have to come to church three times instead of twice. Thus the late date. Two more really positive investigators are two kids, Kevin and Jose. They are 13 and 10, I think, and have come to church on their own for two or three weeks already. The dad is an inactive member who drinks a lot, and the mom doesn't want us to teach them, but other than that they'd be in the font by now. So we're working on it. Then there's another Fransisco who has met with the missionaries a lot and was really close to baptism, but his mom said no so he decided to stop listening to them. He's like 25, though, so we'll see what's up with that. Then we got a couple more references for some other members, like Melvin and his not wife who have met with the missionaries a few times and P1010006been reading in the Book of Mormon but didn't really go anywhere. Or Cindy, who has been reading the Book of Mormon already. Also, an 18-19-20-ish year old kid showed up to church yesterday with one of the members. He liked church and the class that we gave for principles of the gospel, and afterward came up to us and asked us to go visit him. We didn't want to be rude and say no, so we have an appointment with him tomorrow.

So there you go. Those are my woes with the new area. We just have too many references and new investigators. Actually, as great as it is to have all of those, I'm a little worried. We now have a lot to juggle, and how we do will determine whether or not the members trust us with more of their friends or not. And this week we have a huge corn-related missionary activity in the stake, so references will be a big deal there, too. From what I understand, last year over 500 investigators showed up.

P1010001I'm running out of time since the rest of the zone is finishing up writing, so I'll wrap this up. I've attatched a couple screenshots that might be interesting to you all. One is a map more or less of my area, and the other is from when I just took a screen-shot of the google search I did for Buena Vista. What was the top result? Fun stuff. [see web search below]

Also, the pictures I uploaded are of me and my comp making some pups, and some pictures we took on a ridge up by the old Fransisco's house. We had to climb this huge hill to get to his house, and then found out that we had passed it at the bottom. But we got some good pictures. And that is why they call it Buena Vista. Because it's a good view.

I hope that you are all doing great still. Home is a fun place. And El Salvador is a fun place. You should all come visit sometime. After you can speak Spanish, of course. It'll be way better after you know Spanish.

Elder David Arrington


Just thought that was cool

Monday, September 5, 2011

Week 1 in Buena Vista, Chalchuapa

Finally, the email arrived today.  And yes, David has news for us.  Among other things, he got a ticket while driving.  But I’ll let him tell all the “change” news…

Subject:  "I'm quite happy. Everyone wants to be me!"

Wow. I love this feeling of knowing something that none of you know, and all of you waiting for it. It's kind of cool. But yeah, something changed. And you don't know it. Unless you've been snooping around the home server...

So lets see. It's kind of really hard to remember all the way back to last Friday. The only really big things that I remember are things like my comp going to the dentist. Elder Huaman had a P1000875filling fall out, so we had to go get a new one put in, and while he was there the dentist decided that she should just fill in the rest of his minor cavities, which took several hours. Cool story, Hansel.

Most of the weekend was spent just going from investigator to member to less active so that Elder Huaman could say goodbye to everyone. Oh, I don't think I mentioned that. Or maybe I did. On Friday, before writing, we went to the office to finish up a couple quick things. President was there, who had been super super secret about changes. All we knew is that the office was probably going to change somehow. But normally Elder Gonzalez needs to know a week or so in advance who is going to Belize and things like that so that he can buy the tickets, and the assistants usually know changes Saturday night, but President Cordon was set on nobody knowing until Tuesday night. And changes happen Wednesday morning. The assistants finally convinced him to at least tell people on Sunday if they had changes without telling them where they're going so that they can get ready, but that took a lot of work.

P1000881Anyway, we're in the office, and President calls Elder Huaman into his office. After a little while, Elder Huaman comes out super super happy to get five passports. By the way, President had been buying the tickets for Belize himself so that we wouldn't even know that. Anyway, one of those was for Elder Huaman. So President basically straight out told him he's going to Belize, which he's always wanted to do. Thus us going around so he can say goodbye to everyone. I was okay with it. The office is fun.

Sunday, we were teaching a lesson to a less active family, and the call came. Elder Huaman is staying in Trebol, Elder Arrington is leaving. What? President Cordon is nuts. And I don't mean that like crazy, I just mean it like super unpredictable. He TOLD Elder Huaman he was going to Belize, and then that. So the rest of the weekend we had to go back to everyone and tell them that, just kidding, Elder Huaman is staying. Please note that I still had no idea where I was going.

Also, Elder Gonzalez left the office as well. And as far as we are aware, President is getting ready to change Elder Huaman out mid-change, so he very well still could go to Belize. And just like that the old office ceases to exist.

My replacement, Elder Bailey, showed up a day late because one of the APs gave him bad information, so I had less than 24 hours to train him. Elder Oliverson was awesome, though, and left some voice recordings that walk you through absolutely everything in the job, so I only had to walk him through what I did to make it better.

Tuesday was my last day in the office. It was kind of sad. It was also the new missionary meeting, so since Elder Christner had forgotten to do a lot of the stuff he had needed to do and I was the only other one that knew how to do it, I spent a long time out of the office buying stuff and whatnot. But while I was out, on my very last day of driving, I got a ticket. How lame is that? I ran into a police trap where they were literally pulling over every car and writing tickets because everyone drives so horribly. I was talking on my cell phone, which I didn't even know was illegal here, and it was super stupider because Elder Christner had called me to tell me that Elder Huaman needed to ask me something, but that he didn't know what, so he had no reason to call me. My IQ dropped 50 points during that phone call. And I got pulled over for it. As crazy as it is, too, talking on your cell phone is a "very grave" offense, aka as bad as it gets (even worse than driving without a license or even driving without a motor)(I'm not even kidding, you get a ticket for driving without a motor in your car), so it came to a grand sum of $57. I don't know if it's that, the 4% annual late fee (yes, ANNUAL), me never driving again in this country (at least with that license) or the fact that all of the information connected to my license and the car I was driving is already wrong information (old addresses, phone numbers, etc.), or will become wrong when the office sells the Corolla and buys a Hilux in like 2 weeks, but I am very, very much considering not paying it. They've got nothing on me. Take that, horrible traffic law enforcement. I laminated my copy of the ticket, by the way. I'm proud of it, in a weird way.

P1000947Okay, so back to the interesting stuff. I finally found out on Tuesday where I was going. And where I went, actually, since I'm there already. I'm now the District Leader of Buena Vista, Chalchuapa. It's a much less developed area than I've been in before, including Atiquizaya. There are no paved or cobblestone roads except the freeway that runs past it. The bugs (mostly spiders and mosquitos) are much much bigger and badder than before, and I have about a million bites to prove it. The house is much smaller and everything is just older. And I have never missed a microwave so much in my life.

My comp is Elder Funez, who is really great. He has a hearing problem, so he has an ear apparatus thing to help him hear, but he's totally cool about it. We're both really excited to be here and be comps, and we're working really great with the branch and together. The last missionary that was here did almost nothing, and all of the members and my comp know it. But now everyone is pumped. We just got like fifteen references last night from one recent convert family. It's great.

P1000889When I got to the area, though, there was one woman just about ready for baptism. She had been really against the church for a long time (all of her family are members), but when the temple was open she went through it and loved it, so she started meeting with the missionaries. I don't know which, but it could have been Elder Wardlow, who was also here just a little bit ago (right before he ended his mission about a month ago). Ever since then, she progressed really well and had a date for this weekend. So we just had to put together and pull off the wedding and baptism. There were some hitches we had to work out beforehand, but then the whole thing went really smoothly. And yesterday she got confirmed. The family is doing great. I uploaded some pictures of that.

P1000904Also, I uploaded some pictures of a birthday party we went to for a few minutes. I was in charge of the piñata, and I have never seen anything so brutal in my life. These people, be they kids or adults, are carnivorous. As soon as the first candies started dropping from the piñata everyone jumped on it and started tearing it apart. I took some pictures that hopefully convey the massacre. In the end, we had to cremate him because there wasn't enough to bury.

P1000909And that brings us just about up to now. Being District Leader isn't really that complicated, at least compared to working in the office, and I'm really enjoying the little bit of extra time I'm getting to write a little bit better in my journal or write letters (yes, I'm catching up on those now). I'm in charge of three areas: mine, Chalchuapa, and Panamericano (sisters work there). I mostly just ask and report numbers every night, and that's that. And I'll have to be in charge of district meeting.

We found some pretty sweet new investigators this week, by the way, but I'll have to talk about them next week. So you can all look forward to that.

P1000913I bought a new umbrella. The raindrops here were passing through my small one, so I bought a sturdier one. It was like $5. For all of you that wanted to know.

Also, those shoes with the holes in them are my favorite ones, but I'm still rotating them every day. I never use the same ones twice. Those ones just wore out the fastest. And I'm way ahead of you on that front. The same day I took the pictures I sent them to a "poor Salvadoran shoe repairer" who fixed them up and had them ready for me to pick up the next day. $10 for a practically new set of shoes is awesome.

P1000936And if you're getting a package together, I wouldn't mind some more of those Pilot G-2 pens that are the best ever. I swear, half the Elders in this mission have been asking me where to buy those. And I'm down to my last three or four.

Thanks for all of the updates on the family, the screen, and football. Smaller screen? I'm not sure how I feel about that. But the game sounded intense, and the family sounds awesome. Michaels job sounds really long and tedious. I don't think I would be able to do it. But if he can, I guess, go for it. Steven's game is a little sad, but at least he's first string offense. They get all the chicks there. And that's about that. The move went well, which is good, and Stacey surprised Julie. I loP1000942ve surprising people like that. We're good at that in our family.

Alright, I'll see you all next June. And write to you next Monday. Which is and will remain my PDay.

Elder David Arrington

PS: Unless I go back to the Modelo zone again. Then it'll go back to Friday.
PPS: Monday being P-Day makes it really convenient to write me on Sunday...